One of the things about Fuller that you notice is his eyes. They are beautiful eyes. They are striking along with his silky long black coat, one white whisker, and VERY bushy tail for which he is named. I was looking at those eyes as we ate dinner tonight after talking with my brother and his wife and remarked to Bill that they had also commented that they had referred the blog on to some cat rescue friends. That comment led to a discussion of Fuller’s motives’s and thought processes in how he was interacting with Bella and whether or not the hissing and snarling were typical new cat integration behaviors (they are) and why.
That comment, in turn, led to a discussion of cat discipline about the futility of disciplining a cat harshly after an undesirable behavior because in the opinion of experts the cats cannot associate the discipline with the naughty behavior. Bill remarked that it was difficult to know for certain since no one was asking the cats in order to verify if were able to make the association. I opined that the cats could make the association and simply did not care, convincing myself in the moment that Fuller’s gaze was confirming my glib remark. The discussion was definitely headed into that random free-for-all land.
Next we recounted various fur babies that were much better as pets. Sterling would have been shot or knifed by a jealous husband or boyfriend or zealous parent (boundaries were not his strong point). Taffee would have lost her car insurance quickly, ending up who knows where. Bill and I would both have a drink some times back then and Taffee was known for climbing up on the table and helping herself on more than one occasion. Our motto for her was “Girls just wanna have fu-un.” Then there was Red, who didn’t care if the object of his affection was male or female, dog or cat. Freckle would start a howl that everyone would join and then stop it abruptly, everyone stopping with him. What a crazy crew we had over the years. We loved them all, n matter how crazy they were. I summed it up by observing that being pathological or a deviant could be cute or even endearing in a dog or a cat, but it was not as attractive in a human being. Bill agreed that there were many things that were fine in furry, or scaly, beings that should never be in people.
With that observation, dinner ended and I left for Hebrew school, my mind swirling with the many [personalities of the animals and people I have known. I thought about my days at Goodyear and similar organizations, where I was often tempted (fortunately only tempted) to remark at meetings that I had seen similar behavior among the male dogs sparing in my back yard. Then I thought back to a question one of my students had asked that morning in class at the college about whether or not people truly had free will (the classic discussion on Romans 9). Then I thought about personalities, gender, orientation, free will, and choice. What is free and what is not?
And how does that relate to the instruction to love God and God’s love? Oy! Random thoughts indeed!
Clearly not everything is free will and not everything is preordained – neither extreme is rational and neither extreme fits the observable world. We have things that excite us, we have things that give us pleasure. We cannot alter the fact that we come into the world with certain tendencies and desires. The events of life further shape us, often through injury and pain. As organisms, we seek to increase the pleasures and minimize the pains. Some of us can empathize and some of us are challenged to empathize. All of us can grow and improve. We may not have many choices in some of the facets of life. Like Bella and Fuller, life may through some curves our way and we may be predisposed to react a certain way.
We do not get to chose our birth sex. I raised dogs for many years. There were differences between males and females generally, but not always individually. There were aggressive females and nurturing males. Females had babies and most females nursed their babies after giving birth. Some mothers did not, some could not. Some mothers LOVED to nurse any baby they could find and others did not care if they nursed or not. Some males mounted anything they could find (Red), some females did. Some males only mounted males and some females only wanted other females.
My small sample of dogs were far from binary and they were not subject to advertising pressure and I did not care what they did as long as there were no fights, no excessive rowdiness, and no unscheduled litters resulting. That being said, I will also say that I could usually “talk down” a fight between males, but between females, if the teeth bared, it was time to grab them before they grabbed each other or me. So there were some differences, but not as many as human society would imply and the individual variation was huge. If they would have worn clothing, I am sure many styles of dress would have been seen even in my small crew of poodles and cresteds.
I did not have as many cats, but the few cats I have had in my home support similar variety of personalities and styles. There are family traits and tendencies, but considerable variation even then. Back to the dogs. Harley was a dream in the show ring and looked like he hated it before he went in (he was bored, actually), while his brother Freckle was animated outside the ring and a goofball in it (too much fun). And everyone in Beau’s family line had a thing about taking their nose and “rooting” at your hand to ask for treats or petting, probably an old rooting for truffles behavior from long ago.
So there are ingrained behaviors and tendencies in all of us. There are chemical actions and reactions, metabolisms, and more systems than I can name, many of which function most or all of the time without conscious thought. Many of these things contribute to greater and lesser degrees, along with habits, to our many behaviors, both good and bad.
However. And this IS a big however. We can choose to remain locked in our current behavior or we can move toward a better set of choices in behaviors and reactions. We CAN choose to look at a bigger picture, we can push ourselves out of the easy familiar patterns, the known, the comfortable. We can choose to grow to be happier, healthier, more loving, more lovable. We will never be without faults or cracks, for we will always be perfectly human. We all have lessons to learn, even when we do not want to – but wanting to is also a choice – a choice we make every day, many times a day. And it is seldom the easier choice, although doing it often can make it easier to make over time.
Fuller looks at me as I walk back into the house. He does have beautiful eyes. He had no choice about leaving the house today, but he still made many choices. He may not care about whether or not he gets disciplined about scratching the bed (I think he does when it is a stream of water) and he may not care if Bella hisses. But I have to believe he and I can choose to love life, each of us in our own way.